Defensive skill starters set

Alabama's starting linebackers are an impressive mixture of experience and young talent. In the secondary, only one full-time starter returns, but the Tide's coaches believe the unit can be special.

(Above left) Anthony Madison sits in the Tide weight room. Position Coach Chris Ball has consistently praised Madison as the hardest working player in the secondary. At 5-9, Madison isn't the ideal height, but he more than makes up the deficit with strength and jumping ability.

Derrick Pope (left) talks to Demeco Ryans (#35) and Mark Anderson (#47) on the sideline. After sharing time at middle linebacker last season, Pope finds himself a crucial member of the linebacking corps this fall. He'll start at strongside linebacker this Saturday and also see action on the inside.

Charlie Peprah (#26) stretches with his teammates at practice. Peprah split starting duties last year at cornerback, establishing himself as an aggressive, ball-hawking defensive back. The fact that he had to fend off challengers for his job this fall speaks highly of Bama's overall talent in the secondary.

Middle Linebacker Freddie Roach checks out the Jumbotron during a game last season. Roach is firmly entrenched as the starter on the inside, looking to improve on his Freshman All-America season of 2002. To his left, Carlos Andrews (#10) will backup at strong safety.

Every team seems to have one excellent player that just can't seem to get the respect he deserves. On Alabama, it's probably Charles Jones. Last season he played as well as any free safety in the conference, but few pundits talk about his talent. As the only starting senior, Jones is the leader of Bama's pass-stop unit.

Shown in action last year versus Oklahoma, Demeco Ryans is set to start at weakside linebacker this season. Both smart and athletic, Ryans could handle any of the three linebacking positions, if needed.

Roman Harper (right) and Thurman Ward (left) watch practice. In his second collegiate season, Harper is set to start at strong safety. The former prep quarterback has added bulk without losing speed, making him a dangerous man in the secondary. Ward is significantly improved from last season. He'll back-up at one cornerback position.

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